1899: Jeantaud driven by Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat

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1,400 kg
36 bhp
Chain drive rear wheels
Top Speed:
57.60 mph

Although there are many conflicting lists of challengers for the World Land Speed Records held by different authorities throughout the world, it is a curious whim of history that the first six entries are always the same: the three runs each by Camille Jenatzy and the Count de Chasseloup-Laubat.

Jenatzy's case is easy to record, because he used the same car, "La Jamais Contente", for all runs. But the Chasseloup-Laubat brothers, one the constructor, the other and younger the driver, re-built and re-bodied their car for their last run.

It is difficult to discover much detail about these cars of more than 100 years ago, but it is recorded that when the two electric champions first met on the famous Acheres road outside Paris three other cars, all petrol-engined, also attacked the record over the measured kilometre on the same occasion.

One was a de Dion tricycle and both the others were Bollee three-wheelers of the familiar pattern (some still run in the annual London - Brighton event) in which the fearless passenger sat in front of the driver.

But the petrol engine in its contemporary stage of development proved slower than the short-range electric cars.

Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat used a far less streamlined body for his first two runs, but when he was beaten both times by Jenatzy he re-bodied the car, having attributed Jenatzy's superior speed to the wind-cheating shape of  the "La Jamais Contente".

Mechanically the Count's two cars was identical, with a combination of quarter and half-elliptic springs both front and rear and chain drive to the rear wheels, but for the third run the body was given a pointed prow and smoother contours. Mechanical changes were confined to improving the performance of the electric motors and using larger-capacity batteries.

The Count remained faithful to large-diameter coach-type wheels with solid tires, while his rival Jenatzy used the smallest wheels employed on any motor vehicle at that time, with much larger-section tires.

None of the three electric cars had any visible braking system, and evidently relied on the electric motors for braking as well as supplying power. In spite of Count Gaston's effort to reduce frontal area and improve the power-weight ratio, it was Jenatzy who won the electric-powered battle in the end.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource